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Thursday, June 23, 2022

Movie Review: “Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex” (2022)

Tribeca Festival Film Review: “Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex” (2022) 

by Joseph Perry
Many American rock music fans may only be familiar with British musician Marc Bolan’s band T. Rex as the act that had a smash 1970s hit with “Bang a Gong (Get It On),” but Bolan and his band’s popularity in their home country was huge, approaching that of The Beatles at their heyday. The new documentary film Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex and the accompanying tribute album of the same name should help introduce the history of this enigmatic rock star and his work to new listeners and those unfamiliar with his legacy, while showing the influence that Bolan had on rock musicians through the decades during his career and after his untimely death at the age of only 29 in 1977.

The film does an admirable job of following Bolan’s musical career, from his early days as part of the duo Tyrannosaurus Rex to the height of his popularity with full band T. Rex — which had a string of hit singles and albums in the United Kingdom, and which played to sold-out concert houses — and during the time when he began championing punk rock, such as featuring bands such as The Ramones and Billy Idol’s group Generation X on his television program Marc. Bolan was a true rock star, and his positive outlook and trippy answers to interview questions endeared him to fans and fellow musicians alike. 
Such rock and roll luminaries as Ringo Starr, Billy Idol, and Joan Jett recall either playing with or growing up listening to Bolan and T. Rex. Bolan is credited, and rightly so, as the first rocker to introduce the glam craze of the seventies. During the film, even David Bowie admits Marc got there first, also recounting how they initially met long before either became famous, and about their complicated relationship when both were stars.   

Jett, along with other well-known acts from the 1970s and 1980s including U2, Nick Cave, Maria McKee, and Nena — as well as an intriguing group of newer musicians — are shown recording songs for the Angelheaded Hipster tribute album, and share engaging stories about what Bolan means to them. Album producer the late Hal Willner (who had produced albums for the likes of Lou Reed, Laurie Anderson, and Marianne Faithful) envisioned the project as a showcase for Bolan’s songwriting talents, especially bringing his lyrics to the fore.
Despite all of the big names on hand in the film, it is Bolan who shines through marvelously and fabulously, as it should be, in Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex. His unbridled charisma oozes off the screen, and it is no surprise, as Billy Idol recounts, that Bolan once won over a hostile, booing outdoor festival crowd with his performance, with that audience giving him a 15-minute standing ovation at the end of T. Rex’s set.

Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex screened as part of Tribeca Festival, which took place June 8–19, 2022 in New York City, with At Home virtual content.

Angelheaded Hipster: The Songs of Marc Bolan and T. Rex
Directed by: Ethan Silverman
Written by: Ethan Silverman
Produced by: BMG Films, BMG Rights Management
Genre: Documentary, Music
Starring: Marc Bolan, David Bowie, Elton John, Joan Jett, Ringo Starr, Nick Cave, Billy Idol, U2, Rolan Bolan, Gloria Jones
Runtime: 1 hour 35 minutes
Rated: NR
Release Date: June 2022

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